Chennai Corp has no survival data of 23,000 saplings planted after Vardah  

Officials in the city corporation said that no such study of its survival rate has been undertaken thus far

Published: 02nd October 2019 06:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2019 06:09 AM   |  A+A-

Damaged tree saplings planted by the city corporation at Velachery main road. While some saplings have dried others do not have tree guards or have disappeared in the street. EXPRESS / DEBADATTA MALLICK

Express News Service

CHENNAI: A year after the city corporation undertook regreening initiatives in the aftermath of Vardah by planting around 23,000 saplings across various parts of the city, no one knows how many of these saplings are still alive and healthy.

Officials in the city corporation said that no such study of its survival rate has been undertaken thus far after the first phase of planting the tree saplings in 209 arterial roads of the city began in August 2018. The project was undertaken at a cost of Rs 5.29 crores.

A Corporation official said that the ‘question of a survival rate study does not arise’ since the contractors are bound by the terms of the contract to undertake maintenance works for a period of one year.

“The contractors will replace or fix damaged saplings for a period of one year,” said a corporation official. However, Express found that damaged tree saplings and tree guards without any saplings were found in many of these stretches.

In a 100-metre stretch on Velachery high road, beside a private multi-specialty hospital, at least four tree saplings were found damaged- in one case, the sapling was missing from the tree guard, in another, the sapling seemed run down by vehicles and another tree guard was seen with just a stump. Empty tree guards with no saplings inside them were also seen at Greenways road.

“If it is damaged and has a tree guard around it, we would at least know that it needs replacement. What if the guard and the sapling both go missing?  There is no way to say that the sapling even existed,” said the watchman of an apartment complex in Velachery main road.

According to sources, the last inspection by experts to ensure that the saplings are placed and maintained according to the rules, was carried out only in August-September last year.

Vaagai (Albizia lebbeck), Vembu (Azadirachta indica), Mantharai (Bauhinia purpurea), Punnai (Calophyllum inophyllum), Kalyana Murungai (Erythrina variegata) and Arasamaram (Ficus religiosa) were some of the species that were planted as part of the drive that sought to focus on indigenous varieties.

Biodiversity scientist S Aroumougame said that since most of these saplings were planted on the roadsides and not in closed spaces like parks, the maintenance period of one year may not be enough.

“Saplings planted on the roadsides are prone to grazing, vehicular interference, and other dangers. In these cases, we may expect a survival rate of only around 60%,” he said.

Moreover, since the contractors are bound to replace damaged saplings, some would be merely one or two months old when the maintenance contract expires and they are handed over to the civic body, he added.

“Ideally, the maintenance period should span two years. It would be even better if it is three years,” he said.

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